Native American may be new Secretary of Interior

Congresswoman Deb Haaland will be nominated as the new Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Biden-Harris transition team announced the nomination on December 17.

If appointed, the Congresswoman from New Mexico will be the first Native American to serve in a cabinet level position.

The US Department of the Interior oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, as well as land and natural resource management, wildlife conservation, and territorial affairs.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland said after the announcement was made.

“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce,” she continued. “I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”

Congresswoman Haaland has represented the New Mexico First Congressional district since 2018. The appointment means a seat will open up in the House of Representatives where Democrats hold a narrow majority of seats.

Republicans in New Mexico flipped the Second Congressional district in the November 3 General Election, even while Haaland won 58 percent of the vote in New Mexico’s First Congressional district.

Among those who offered congratulations to Representative Haaland is Navajo Nation President Johnathen Nez.

“The appointment of Deb Haaland is not only historic,” said Nez, “but it also sends a clear message to all tribes and people across America that the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing the wrongs of the past and clearing a path for real change and opportunity for tribal nations.”

The appointment of Congresswoman Haaland could have significant implications for the future of the Bears Ears National Monument.

President Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres in San Juan County as a national monument in 2016. In 2017, President Donald Trump reduced the size of the Bears Ears National monument to approximately 200,000 acres.

Earlier this month, the San Juan County Commission signed a resolution asking President-elect Biden to enlarge the national monument, while the Blanding and Monticello city councils are creating a joint resolution asking the monument to remain the same.

Ultimately, the future boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument could be decided in federal courts, where a lawsuit is working its way through the courts to determine if U.S. presidents have the authority to change the size of designated national monuments. That court ruling may undo President Trump’s reduction.

If the courts rule the action is allowed, the future of the Bears Ears National Monument could be decided under the leadership of Congresswoman Haaland.

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